HONOLULU — Hawaiians braced for a one-two punch from a pair of major storms headed their way Wednesday, as Hurricane Iselle bore down on the islands packing high winds and heavy surf and Julio, tracking right behind, was upgraded to hurricane status.
Iselle was expected to weaken into a tropical storm before reaching the islands Thursday afternoon but forecasters said it could still bring high winds and 10- to 15-foot surf to the tourist haven.
State officials warned of the potential for flash floods, mudslides and power outages, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation, freeing up funds and other resources, in anticipation of its arrival.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio, upgraded Wednesday from a tropical storm, was expected to roll into the islands as early as Saturday, also packing heavy surf and high winds. But officials said they were still focused on Iselle.
Residents stocked up on basics as authorities in Honolulu advised them to prepare a seven-day disaster supply kit. Shoppers waited in lines at supermarkets with carts full of bottled water, batteries and nonperishable food.
“With Hawaii’s remoteness, it could be as long as a week before a full disaster relief operation can be initiated,” the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management said in a statement.
Honolulu teacher Gina Nakahodo said she had remained calm until she reached the empty water aisle of her local grocery store early Tuesday.
“We’ve had so many storms that have passed us by, but with these two back to back you begin to worry. Then all of a sudden the aisles are empty and there’s no water and it makes your heart pound a little,” Nakahodo said.
She said she talked to a couple visiting from California and told them everything was going to be OK. “But in the back of my mind I’m wondering, ‘What’s going to happen?’” she said.
Public schools would be closed Thursday on the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Island of Hawaii, the Hawaii State Department of Education said.